Publication:Pastoral letter, March 2001
Dear Friend in Christ:
In my letter to you last month, I wrote about “The Road Home.” In this letter, I hope to continue to convey a relational view of Church life that is a purpose-driven pilgrimage together.
Many years ago, I sat in my office and listened to a missionary as he described a great church in South America. He was telling me how they progressed from their homes to the great gathering place down in the city. The father would lead his family in a brief time of prayer and worship. Then, they would proceed to a location along the way to join other families in a time of worship and prayer. Finally, large groups would proceed from every direction converging at the Great Hall of meeting. It amazed and excited me as I visualized this journey in my mind.
When Israel left Egypt, they began that way. Each family gathered around the lamb and ate the Passover meal, dressed to depart at midnight (see Exodus 12). Families and groups of families converged in tribes to follow Moses out of Egypt toward the Promised Land. It was a generation later before they finally entered Canaan, and then much later when they gathered to Zion and the City of David. But Israel always traveled in families. If someone was alone, God set the solitary in families (see Psalm 68:6).
When Jesus was 12 years old, He made His pilgrimage to the temple as all Jewish men were commanded to do. He went with His family. They walked toward Jerusalem, and were joined by other families, until great throngs converged from all directions. The gatherings in Jerusalem were more than gatherings of individuals; they were gatherings of families. In the 1,500 years since the Exodus, Israel had not lost its sense of family and the importance of patriarchal responsibility. And to this day, Orthodox Judaism remains patriarchal and family-based. They still “travel” in families.
The question before us is not only where are we going, but also with whom will we travel? Is this journey only a personal pursuit or do we need spiritual family?
Family is more than people in the same house. I have a friend who lives in a boarding house, but that is not a family. Family is organic life flow, common life, kinship, common order, and purpose. It is a covenant bond that establishes a secure foundation for procreation and mutual support. It is a unity that grows and goes together.
Satan hates family. He attacked it in the Garden of Eden, and has done so ever since. He understands that fragmentation weakens and makes vulnerable. His plan has always been to divide and conquer. He questions God’s Word about family, gender, God’s order, and elevates personal human pride. Satan attacks fatherhood, perverts womanhood, and encourages child rebellion. He divides parents and produces independent, often rebellious, children. He favors individualism.
In September 1987, President Ronald Reagan issued an executive order that made strengthening families the main criteria for federal legislation. In April 1997, ten years later, President Bill Clinton canceled that order. In recent years, the United States government has funded many anti-family groups with our tax dollars.
Our society has become radically individualized to such an extent that churches have also been affected. More and more Christians “travel” alone. As a result, society has substituted organization, entertainment, programs, television, and now the internet, for relationships. We look to an event or some other device to meet a need that can only be met in lasting organic relationships. We even expect the church meeting to extend the Kingdom for us. Meetings beget meetings, but relational people beget relational people. Meetings can be good, but they cannot replace friendship.
Natural family is basic to social and civil society. But Jesus spoke also of spiritual family. In Mark chapter 3, we are told that at one point, Jesus’ natural family thought that He had lost His senses.
“Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you,” He was told. “Who are My mother and brothers?” He asked them. Then He looked around the room and said, “Behold My mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Is it true that we who are committed to journey together are His family? Are there fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers in His family? Yes there are. Should we expect those kinds of relationships in the body of Christ? Yes we should. That is organic – life giving, nurturing, and covenantal.
Can we experience that life in a practical way, with strangers or large groups of people? No. Can we experience that with intimate spiritual friends to whom we are joined? Yes, and we must if we are to journey securely. Jesus found such relationships and fellowship for His journey, and He is our model.
Should we be personally and spiritually procreative and bring spiritual sons and daughters to birth in Christ’s Kingdom? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Church meetings and programs are certainly useful, but building spiritual family is the pattern from Adam to Abraham, from Jacob to Joseph, from Moses to the Messiah, from the Apostles to now.
True spiritual family is built around one’s relationship to Christ, and with those where Christ has placed us. “The Body of Christ” is an ordered relationship of mutual support, among diverse members serving a common cause. It is more than a meeting, a program, or an organization. Those are scaffolds, but people are the building.
People who are properly joined to Christ and each other are the Body. If we are to build true churches, we must build people.
The kingdom of God is God’s government, both directly through Christ the King, and indirectly as He delegates leaders. Those leaders are given constituents by the Lord; the people belong to God. Leaders become responsible for the quality of relational righteousness among those under their care.
The responsibility of those of us that are under leadership is to honor that leadership as unto the Lord, and follow them in unity as they lead toward the “Land of Promise,” and to the place of reigning with Christ (see Hebrews 13). Both leaders and people are responsible to build spiritual families that are evangelistically procreative, and that are extending His fellowship, communion, and relationship (see 1 John 1:3).
In my limited view, the world is not looking for another organization; it is looking for real love and real purpose. It is looking for friends for the journey and that is a “twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week” life. Unfortunately, it is easier to hide ourselves behind titles, programs, platitudes, and among the church pews. This was not Jesus’ method.
The Apostle Paul, a real spiritual father, said, “So then, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food” (see Romans 14:19-20). The work of God is people.
More than forty-five years in the ministry have taught me that you can build institutions without building the people; you can fill buildings with empty people. And, you can build people without building institutions. Hopefully, we can do both; but we must keep the people first. People grow in families, not warehouses!
A FAMILY FOR THE JOURNEY
I hope to convey that my goal is not “more of the same.” It is to see the Church restored to the example we have in Christ. If Jesus should ask you, “Who are your mother, brothers, sisters, or spiritual fathers,” how would you answer that?
Do you travel…are you on the journey to Zion and Jerusalem? And if so, who are you traveling with? It is not a two-week trip! You will need a spiritual family. By God’s amazing grace…I hope to meet you at Zion at the Son of David’s throne, with your group.
STRENGTHENING SPIRITUAL FAMILIES
The ministry that the Lord has given us, CSM, has been catalytic. That is, through the years we have sought to be faithful to the message that God has given to us and to build people. That in turn has strengthened and sparked many other ministries and spiritual families. We thank God for allowing us to be a part of His process, and we look forward to what He has ahead for us to do in 2001…and beyond.
As more large churches and ministries began to look increasingly towards models that strengthen one-to-one relationships and spiritual families, we believe that the Lord is calling us to proclaim this message with renewed vigor and focus. This is not a time to shrink back, but to re-dedicate ourselves to the task that God has set before us. CSM works in partnership with churches and ministries worldwide, providing equipping and encouraging materials to people who are on a journey together toward Zion.
Your prayer and financial support is vitally important in this mission. We could not have done all that we have done in the past without the faithful, sacrificial giving of many key friends and supporters. And, we will not be able to move forward in the mission without the same.
Would you consider being a part of our CSM team? If the Lord leads you, please put us on your prayer list…tell others in your church or sphere of influence about this ministry…and remember us in your budget. We thank you, and we thank God, for all of our provision.
May the Lord bless you and yours now and always.
Scripture Reference: Exodus 12, Psalm 68:6; Hebrews 13, 1 John 1:3, Romans 14:19-20